So many of us have dreamed of doing the big lap around Australia, and we love nothing more than hearing from all of you out there doing it right now – so when Mark and Jo Mills dropped us an email, we jumped at the chance for a little Q & A with one of the many families out there living their dream!
Mark and Jo Mills are currently on the adventure of a lifetime with their two children, Vanessa (12) and Ash (10). They have just passed Day 73 of their journey towing a caravan around 20,000 kilometres of Australia – a trip that will take them 14 weeks to complete and see them travel from their home in Gembrook, Victoria, through the SA outback, up through the Northern Territory, into the Kimberley, down the Western Australian coast and back to Victoria via the Nullarbor and South Australia’s Eyre Peninusula.
When we asked what they’ve done so far, the answer was a roll-call of some of Australia’s greatest bucket list places to go and things to do! We hope you enjoy the Q & A, drop us a line and let us know if you are on the road, or dreaming of it! We always love to share your stories with each other.
- What are everyone’s “roles” on the adventure?!
Mark is designated driver, car and caravan maintenance and repairs guru, Drone and GoPro operator and head BBQ chef. Jo is chief navigator, also in charge of planning the journey and making the bookings! Jo also looks after the housekeeping for the caravan, is the photographer and writer of their online blog and in charge of the rest of the cooking. The kids help to set up and pack up the caravan and everyone is expected have fun and learn more about our beautiful country!
- How have you managed taking the kids out of school for this length of time?
The school teachers encouraged the trip and said the kids would learn more on the road for the term than they would in the classroom. Vanessa & Ash keep daily journals and control their own budgets. They have both been involved with the planning & navigating. Ash completed his Passion Project on Uluru (in PowerPoint Presentation) and sent it back to school. They are the main stars in our Mills Adventures website videos, describing all that has been discovered along the way.
- Have you always been a family that goes on caravan holidays?
We bought our first caravan in 2009 and are up to our fourth caravan (which is a Jayco STARCRAFT Outback with bunks and combined shower/toilet). We love this van and it has done everything that we needed on this trip.
- Are you staying in Holiday Parks or free camping (or both)
We are doing both.
Whilst it is lovely to have facilities, we need to make it more affordable by free camping as much as possible. Most of our best campsites have been the free ones.
- What have the highlights of your journey been so far?
- Kakadu (Maguk Falls & Adelaide Jumping Crocs Tour)
- Mitchell Falls
- Zebedee Springs (El Questro)
- Horizontal Falls
- Tunnel Creek
- Snorkelling Ningaloo Reef
- Tom Curtain’s Outback Experience
- Karijini National Park (Hancock & Weano Gorges)
Honestly, we haven’t had many areas we weren’t impressed with!
- Have any destinations or experiences surprised you?
- Horizontal Falls
- Ningaloo Reef was really good, especially on the coast at Point Quobba known as “The Aquarium” South of Blow Holes. The marine life was just incredible.
- Tom Curtain’s Outback Experience in Katherine.
- What has been hard (if anything) about the journey?
We really miss our puppy dog Harley, as we had to leave him at home due to the amount of National Parks we wanted to visit. Also, Mark’s father had a stroke about half way into our trip which was very difficult to be so far away and not around to help the family. It was lucky we had our Sat Phone as we had no phone reception during this time. He is recovering slowly which is why we have continued with our trip just as he has wished. We all really miss our family and friends, which is why we setup our website/blog to show everyone what we have been doing.
- Tell us some of your top ‘tricks’ to making a caravan journey such as this easier?
- Duct tape is great for keeping out dust and good for repairs.
- Good quality water filter to fill up the water tanks. It takes away all those strange tastes and makes the water much easier to drink.
- Camps Australia Book has been invaluable for looking for all the free camps.
- Wipes in the car & caravan (These are great, especially when you watch how much water you use. It also works well cleaning feet before getting into bed).
- HEMA Navigator/GPS.
- Sat phone (to keep in contact with family, especially in an emergency)
- Well serviced vehicle with good off-road tyres and ensure they have been let down on dirt roads.
- Plenty of 12v & USB charging points.
- Good Solar Panels and Batteries in the van.
- Good hiking/water shoes (for the rocky gorges)
- Check Quarantine regulations when crossing borders and avoid stocking up on fresh produce before reaching them. We had plenty to hand over at the NT/WA border.
- What do you like most about caravan adventures such as this?
Definitely spending quality time with the family, and offering the kids this amazing experience and being able to watch them enjoy & grow from it. Also, being able to see parts of Australia that we have never seen before. It has inspired us to see more parts of Victoria that we would ordinarily take for granted.
- What has surprised you the most about this journey?
The trip has run very smoothly and it feels like we could keep travelling like this forever, although we are all still looking forward to returning home. It is amazing how little we can live with and when we do return home everything is going to feel so big.
We have continually run into other family’s & couples doing similar and different trips. We have made some friends on the road and plan to continue keeping in touch with them.
- What would you say to encourage others to undertake a journey such as this?
We would highly recommend it and only wished we could have taken a whole year. The weather during the dry season up north is amazing to enjoy so many beautiful gorges & beaches in WA. It also gives you excellent bonding time with your family and it allows you to learn even more about each other.
You can follow the Mill’s adventure on their blog millsadventures.weebly.com
Let us know if you have done such a journey, are planning one, or currently on one in the comments below!